As a writer, staring at a bank page can incite a myriad of emotions such as apprehension, excitement, frustration, elation, determination, stress, and hope. It can signify the beginning of something new. A fresh start. Perhaps a new story, characters, and maybe even the opportunity to try experimenting with writing a new genre. But it can also be daunting, especially when a writer’s old familiar foes, self-doubt and fear of failure, take up residence and lurk in the background, adding fuel to the smouldering insecurities that are always simmering away just beneath the calm exterior.
Life, I’ve discovered in recent weeks, works in pretty much the same way. Make big and small decisions or choose not to, both ultimately result in having to deal with consequences. Change can be scary. Change can be positive. It can change your life.
For the past year, I’ve been struggling with poor health and it has taken its toll on my loved ones and myself. For the most part, I lost all interest and the inclination to pursue the activities that I love and gain both pleasure and escapism from, such as writing, photography, films, theatre, listening to music, and reading. In a time when there is so much cruelty, evil, hatred, and sadness in the world, it’s easy to sink down into dark despair and feel utterly helpless. I truly believe it’s not a weakness to admit when we’re afraid or upset.
During this week, especially, I’ve felt both acutely.
But here’s the thing, I refuse to let those horrific events, malicious intentions of others, difficult and challenging consequences, and my own personal insecurities stop me from being positive and looking for the good in the world. Because there is good out there, a lot of it, and it deserves to be recognised and shared. I believe with every fibre of my being that there is more good in the world than bad. The events of Monday in Manchester were horrific and evil. The solidarity, empathy, and love that people have shown in the aftermath is beyond incredible. It sends a strong message. We’re diverse and from different walks of life, but we respect one another and will always stand together as a formidable opponent, united and strong.
I’ve not always been so positive and it isn’t always easy to keep it up. Even as little as three months ago, my mindset was shrouded with depression and anxiety which created a perpetual self-fulfilling cycle of negativity. When and why did I make a conscious effort to change?
Two months ago. My grandad, who is the nicest most gentle and caring man you could ever hope to meet, had a stroke. For a little while, we weren’t sure he was going to recover. It was scary and heartbreaking, but against all odds he did recover and very quickly. His steely determination and unwavering positive outlook on life meant he recovered in an amazingly short period of time. He stunned all of the healthcare professionals and us as a family. My grandma showed strength, independence, and a deep rooted faith throughout. Their love prevailed and our whole family learnt a valuable lesson…life is precious and we should make the most of every day.
It changed everything for me.
Every day now feels like a new blank page just waiting for me to write upon, bursting with endless possibilities and potential. I refuse to take the people I love for granted. I feel blessed every morning when I wake. I’ve noticed the beauty of spring in a new and profound way. It’s almost like I never had the time to notice it previous years. The vibrant colours and gorgeous scents are a delight. I cherish the moments spent with my family and friends and tell them passionately and repeatedly how much they mean to me. I hug them that bit tighter, for that bit longer. I’ve laughed more in the last few weeks that I did throughout the whole of 2016. I’ve learnt that making other people laugh is one of my most favourite things. If I see the opportunity to help someone or improve their day even with something as simple as a smile or just a kind word, I don’t hesitate to do it. I get up extra early in the morning to take our dog for a long walk while it’s quiet and cool. It gives me time to think and reflect about what I want to get out of the day ahead. I try to appreciate and embrace as many positive things as possible. I’ve started my photography again, tried my hand at painting (and failed miserably but found it very therapeutic), and have even started learning to play the ukulele.
Why? Because life is short…just like me. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, but today is the here and now, and there’s nothing stopping you from chasing your dreams and enjoying every single second.
And why not?
It would be easy to lock ourselves away inside our homes and not dare to venture out, but that’s what those with evil intentions are hoping we’ll do. I refuse to let them have that power, to dictate or affect my life or decisions. My family, friends, and loved ones look forward to the Bold Strokes Book event every single year and they come en mass to support me and the other awesome BSB authors. As a family, we live locally and we all love Nottingham and are proud to be apart of the community. It’s a stunning city, with a rich history, whose community is vibrant, beautifully diverse, and above all else, friendly. I’m so grateful and proud to work in Nottingham at the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, with fabulous colleagues, and it feels like my second home.
I first attended the BSB event as an avid reader and had an amazing time. But I nearly didn’t go. I was so anxious I almost bottled it at the last minute and if it wasn’t for my amazing wife insisting, I may never have ended up where I am now. The event and authors I spoke to ignited my passion for writing and I knew then and there that I wanted to be a part of something special. After a few knock-backs I finished my first manuscript and then with a lot of hard work and dedication, I was welcomed into the BSB family. I now have had three novels published.
It was this amazing event that sparked my desire to become a writer of LGBTQ fiction. It was also at this event that I made lifelong friends and got the opportunity to talk with like minded people who share similar interests. (I also sang my first karaoke song after one of the events…but the less that’s said about that the better). Everyone is welcome. It’s full of fun, laughter, prizes, new friendships, and amazing memories.
I’m really looking forward to next weekend and I truly hope that you are too. If it’s your first time joining us, or you’re coming alone, please come and speak to me and I’ll happily show you around and introduce you to everyone. And maybe, this might be the start of your own brand spanking new blank page and the possibilities are endless.
Amy Dunne will be at the Bold Strokes Book Festival, reading from her novel Renegade.